Monday, February 23, 2009

Todd/Anne-Marie: Expectations.

I would like to believe I have it easy. I would like to believe *(as Donna seems to) that I have been given a gift of a new life all wrapped up in a pretty little bow. An amazing house, an extremely stable upper-middle class (lower upper class?) financial state, nice car, a "husband" who is a decent guy, if slightly inattentive and short-tempered at times, and two kids who generally stay out of trouble. But even with all that going for me, there are so many caveats that come with this life that I simply cannot wait to leave.

It's a matter of responsibility and expectations. Like, I'm technically a mom - a parent and a woman. So even though I don't talk abut it much, I have to take care of these kids, as well as Hal. I keep the place cleanish, I cook meals, do laundry, and grocery shop... things I barely had the urge to do when I was only looking after myself. Yes, oftentimes I can count on Julia's help, but last week she and Kalli went back down to South Carolina. Kalli's mom was sick and they were basically forced to go by the real Kalli's family. And Anne-Marie of course doesn't want Ellie traveling by herself, so she got a week off from Hal's office and went down there with her.

But whatever. I'm managing. It's been good, except when it's not. It's very stressful keeping so many pots on the stove and when I need to vent, well - I've got two choices: this computer and Bryan, who mainly just makes fun of it. So it's hard not to just go completely bitchcakes on everyone sometimes.

Which is why I found it really surprising when Hayley came into the living room while I was watching TV the other night, and asked in an accusing voice, "What is wrong with you lately?"

I just looked at her. What a question. I couldn't even begin, so I just sat there until I could finally say, "Excuse me?"

"Mom I didn't want to point this out or anything, but you've been acting really weird for a long time and I thought it was nothing but it's starting to bug me. So is something going on, or what?"

"What do you mean is something going on?"

"I dunno. With you and dad, or something? Are you guys fighting or something? Did I do something wrong? You're always really weird around me and I don't get it."

While it would be really helpful for me to just say "I'm not your mother," I think that at best that would serve only to confuse her, and at worst, likely traumatize her for life. So I turn off the TV and sit up straight. "Honey, come here." She sits down. "Nothing's wrong." (Lie.) "Your father and I are getting along fine." (Truth.) "But I really want to hear what's on your mind, so please start at the beginning." (Half-truth.)

"I don't know I just feel like... you don't care about me anymore. We don't talk like we used to and I miss it." A tear fell down her cheek and she sniffled, "And it really hurts, 'cause... it's a week to my birthday and you haven't even asked me about it or anything, it's like you forgot."

I feel like an idiot. I mean, there's no way I could've known - Anne-Marie sure as hell didn't warn me - but Hayley here is really hurting. And I'm just stunned at all this stuff that's pouring out of her. I wrapped an arm around her and she leaned her head on my shoulder. She goes on, "I overheard you talking about going to Maine with Ellie and I just... it's like you care about her more than me and she's not your daughter!" Full-blown waterworks by now. My heart is racing with guilt. "Why won't you take me to Maine, mom? Why do you care so much about her?"

I froze only a moment while I started to put some pieces together in my head. I had already been a pretty good liar before it became a fact of life that I would always be lying. Because the best lies are based in truth, this is what I said:

"Honey," I ran my fingers through her hair as she cozied up to me. "I know that sounds harsh, but you've got to understand... Ellie... just wants a little trip away from her mom. You wouldn't like it in Maine, it's not a very nice place, and it's not open in the wintertime. So I just had to make the arrangements now. But for you..." This is where my mind started to search until finally I pulled it out of my subconscious, "I've got something a lot nicer for you. I was going to make it a surprise, but if you don't like it you can tell me now. For your birthday, you and I are going... to New York! I'm going to take you for the weekend, and we'll go to a spa and see the town and do lots of fun things. What do you say?"

She stopped sobbing for a moment. She pulled her chin up and look at me. And by God she broke out the biggest smile I've seen on a girl in years. "Mom, that sounds so awesome! Thank you!" And she kissed me on the cheek and bounded off, wiping away the remaining tears.

And I sat there thinking, okay, now I've got to arrange this. And as my body shook off the leftover guilt that had settled in the pit of my stomach, I felt a lump of anger in my throat that I even felt guilty about this at all. After all, like I said, this was not my fault, it shouldn't be my responsibility, and it's just another thing that is expected of me that I don't want and shouldn't have to deal with. Yes, I'm glad to do something nice for this girl on her birthday, but... goddamn. The point is, no matter how many chores I do, meals I cook, rooms I clean... I'm not a mom, not deep inside, and I feel like it's going to kill me if I keep having to pretend like this.

I needed some way to focus my frustration. So as soon as I took out my frustration on my pillows, I phoned up Donna. I got voicemail. "Listen Lady, I know we haven't talked in a while, but I think it's time we laid it all out there. I'm going to Maine this summer, and I'm going to New York this weekend, and in between, you're gonna tell me everything there is to know about Donna Hayes."

It meant to sound a lot more threatening than it did. She hasn't called me back yet.

But anyway. If any of you transformees in NYC want to get in touch now would be the time. I think I might be able to work something out...

-Todd/Anne-Marie

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